Why bother? Reflections from a council officer on the advisory group

Reflections from a council officer on the Communities up Close advisory group

Good question! We bothered because we wanted to know how our communities are coping with the recent changes to our population.

As a council we don’t want to make decisions for our residents without fully understanding their specific needs nor how their lives have changed and what this means to them.

The Communities up Close project seemed heaven sent; here was an organisation keen to go into our communities, talk to real people and produce an in-depth report on the ‘state of the nation’. I was greatly excited by the prospect of being able to find out how are citizens are coping with life in the 21st century; I find other people's lives endlessly fascinating!

A huge bonus of being involved in the project has been the opportunity to meet and learn from colleagues in Germany and other parts of the UK. This opportunity came about because the Communities up Close team developed new links with a COMPAS project sharing experiences of integration and inclusion issues in small towns in the two countries. This recent collaboration between the universities of Berlin and Oxford University saw a group of us get together to discuss our communities, and how research helps us to help our citizens. We realised that we are each not alone in trying to tackle issues around migration, poverty, education and so on.

If nothing else, the collaboration has shown me that, no matter who we are, what we are or where we’re from, we all face similar problems and we absolutely cannot solve any of these unless we work together to properly understand each other’s priorities and how, jointly, we can overcome barriers.

But back to the Communities up Close project. We were very pleased with the final reports on research sites in our local authority and they have been very well received across the authority; it’s great to know that local people want to talk about their lived experiences and we must now make sure that we listen carefully and pay attention to what’s happening in the richly varied and sometimes difficult lives of our communities.

As a direct result of being involved in this project, we recognise the need to focus on building more resilient and cohesive communities and have drafted an outline of current challenges and how these could be addressed. We are now seeking high-level approval to develop our plans and implement the associated activities.

 

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